A man holds a door to a Didi self-driving car during last month’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. Picture: REUTERS
A man holds a door to a Didi self-driving car during last month’s World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai. Picture: REUTERS

Ride-hailing giant Didi Chuxing plans to start using self-driving vehicles to pick up passengers in Shanghai and hopes to expand the scheme outside China by 2021.

Local authorities in Shanghai last week issued licences — the first in China — for operational tests of smart and connected cars with passengers in them, that would pave the way for commercial robotaxis in the future.

The licences were given to car-hailing ride service Didi Chuxing as well as to car manufacturer SAIC Motor and BMW that allow them to conduct autonomous driving projects in real urban scenarios.

Each of the three companies are permitted to run 50 vehicles for pilot programs including robotaxis, unmanned deliveries and other autonomous driving services. The licence holders can increase the number of test vehicles after six months if there are no traffic violations.

A driver will be onboard to take over if needed. 

“China has some of the most complicated traffic scenarios in the world, so the BMW Group's automated driving R&D in China has become an important part of autonomous driving development worldwide," the German carmaker said.

"Self-driving vehicles will be one of the most important areas in artificial intelligence over the next 10 years," said a Didi spokesperson.

Tech giants such as China's Baidu and Alphabet’s Waymo as well as traditional carmakers have been racing to put full commercial self-driving vehicles on the road.

However, some have stumbled due to the difficulty and expense of developing self-driving cars capable of anticipating and responding to humans in urban areas.

In December, Waymo began charging passengers to use its driverless vehicles in a roughly 160km zone in four US suburbs.


Super version of the Jaguar I-Pace coming

The Jaguar I-Pace, seen here competing in this year’s Knysna Hillclimb, will be joined by a high-performance SVR model. Picture: SUPPLIED
The Jaguar I-Pace, seen here competing in this year’s Knysna Hillclimb, will be joined by a high-performance SVR model. Picture: SUPPLIED

Get ready for a high-performance SVR version of Jaguar's I-Pace electric SUV, the reigning World Car of the Year.

Jaguar's Special Vehicle Operations has confirmed plans for a more performance-oriented derivative of the vehicle, which is already none-too-slow with its ability to scoot from 0-100km/h in 4.8 seconds, thanks to outputs of 294kW and 696Nm.

The standard I-Pace was launched in SA in March priced between R1,687,200 and R1,920,700, which includes a five-year/100,000km warranty on the vehicle and an eight-year/160,000km warranty on the lithium-ion battery.

It is claimed to have a range of up to 470km and Jaguar has set up a nationwide fast-charging network.

Jaguar hasn’t said when the SVR version might be launched, but hinted that other I-Pace variants might also follow including a more luxurious model and a hardcore off-roader.


'Roadrunner' Isuzu clocks 1.7m km

Gerhard du Toit with ‘Roadrunner’, his Isuzu that has clocked over 1.7 million kilometres. Picture: SUPPLIED
Gerhard du Toit with ‘Roadrunner’, his Isuzu that has clocked over 1.7 million kilometres. Picture: SUPPLIED

Having a bakkie with 1.7-million kilometres on the clock is quite an achievement. Much like reaching that Diamond (60th) or Platinum (70th) wedding anniversary.

Gerhard du Toit compares his relationship with his Isuzu D-MAX (previously known as the Isuzu KB) bakkie, Roadrunner — which is also the name of his courier business based in Oudtshoorn — to a long and prosperous marriage.

"You have to understand that I treat my bakkie very well and talk to my bakkie every day. I ask the bakkie to drive nicely and tell the bakkie that I rely on it, to get me where I need to be," said an earnest Du Toit.

He uses Roadrunner to travel between Oudtshoorn and George twice a day, every day, for his courier business. This daily commute is through the scenic Outeniqua Pass with several sharp corners and 90° bends.

But it is not the more than 300km per day that Roadrunner travels that makes this bakkie a true workhorse: "I stop and start the bakkie between 80 to 100 times per day. This is as I drop off the parcels or pick up parcels at my various clients in the two towns. I have had to replace my front seat covers twice already, but I think Roadrunner may still outlive me one day," chuckled Du Toit.

Du Toit (74) has been driving Roadrunner since his retirement more than 15 years ago.


Tesla cop car runs out of batteries during chase

Out of juice: the batteries of a Tesla S cop car went flat during a car chase. Picture: NETCARSHOW
Out of juice: the batteries of a Tesla S cop car went flat during a car chase. Picture: NETCARSHOW

Police in Fremont, California have learned that electric cars don’t necessarily make the best pursuit vehicles.

A US police officer recently had to abandon a high-speed highway chase after — you guessed it — the batteries ran down in his modified Tesla Model S.

“The Tesla wasn’t fully charged at the beginning of the shift,” a Fremont police spokesperson was quoted as saying. “This unfortunately happens from time to time even in our vehicles that run on gas, if they aren’t re-fuelled at the end of a shift.”

Although there’s nothing wrong with the Tesla’s performance and the chase reportedly reached speeds of about 190km/h, the cop car’s dying battery allowed the perpetrator — who was in a petrol car — to escape the long arm of the law.

 “I am down to six miles of battery on the Tesla so I may lose it here in a sec,” Officer Jesse Hartman said when radioing in during his chase. I’ve got to try to find a charging station for the Tesla so I can make it back to the city.”

The vehicle is part of a test to see if electric vehicles are suitable for police use. Battery issues haven’t usually been a problem and they’re easily able to make it through an 11-hour shift with battery power to spare, said a Fremont police spokesperson.


Want a Lotus F1 replica? Check out this auction

This Formula M racer which replicates the classic Senna Lotus 99T of the eighties is on offer at the auction.
This Formula M racer which replicates the classic Senna Lotus 99T of the eighties is on offer at the auction.
Image: Supplied

The Old Johannesburg Warehouse Auctioneers will host a motoring auction at the Shawn Tyler Motor Museum in Benoni from October 4-6.

A wide array of automotive memorabilia is on offer, the latest including a fine replica of a yellow and blue Lotus 99T Formula M car owned by collector Shawn Tyler of Shawn Tyler Motor Museum in Benoni.

The auction house is managed by former Springbok and 1995 World Cup Rugby team member Christiaan Scholtz who has run antique shops such "Die Ossewa" in Melville, Johannesburg. Classic cars and motorcycles, models and vintage toys, petrol pumps, signs and various other automotive memorabilia will be on sale.

Classic cars include a Mk1 Ford Cortina in Gulf livery and a Series 1 Land Rover Defender at this monthly two-day collectables auction.

The Shawn Tyler Motor Museum is situated at 306 Boundary Road, Benoni. Visit www.oldjwauctioneers.com for a look at some of the items on offer.